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Alternative Spring Break

Hiding in Plain Sight: Homelessness Immersion in Atlanta, GA

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About The Trip: 

The trip will be an opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a simulation of homelessness for five days and four nights in the Greater Atlanta area. Students will experience the conditions and circumstances of homelessness while also visiting and serving agencies that are geared towards helping individuals experiencing homelessness. These agencies will help students gain an in-depth perspective of how homelessness develops, how homelessness is being addressed in Atlanta, and what issues these agencies are specifically tackling. Students will also participate in simulations and discussion activities with individuals undergoing homelessness and learn more about what these daily experiences mean for those undergoing homelessness, their families, legal officials, and the Atlanta community. During the trip, students will also participate in reflection activities that will help them process their experiences and deepen their learning about homelessness. Some of the organizations we will be partnering with include Central Outreach and Advocacy Center, the Metro Atlanta Task Force, the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency, Covenant House Georgia, and the Lost N Found organization.

The trip ultimately aims to close the gap between “us” and “them” in our discourse on homelessness, to gain a better understanding of the experience through interactions with those undergoing homelessness, to educate and increase awareness about the underlying issues in society which contribute to the cycle of homelessness, and to inspire and provide the foundation for future actions toward change. Despite these well-intentioned goals, this trip does not seek to fully and truly understand the plight of homelessness which is something no one but those undergoing these struggles can ever comprehend.

About the Social Justice Issue: 

Georgia’s Department of Community Affairs estimates that 17,000 individuals are homeless throughout Georgia, but there is no reliable method to include all those who are homeless because of fluctuations in the number of temporarily homeless people. There are multiple categories of homelessness that include literally homeless, imminently homeless, and other homeless (those in a jail, hospital, or detox program who would otherwise have been homeless). The unifying condition for almost all of Georgia’s homeless population is poverty. Many people who are homeless also experience some type of personal vulnerability such as family violence, physical disability or chronic medical problems, mental illness, substance abuse, or criminal background.

According to HomeAid Atlanta, a three-county survey of Atlanta’s homeless shelters found a shortage of 1,700 beds for all homeless people, including children and youth. There is need for organizations to provide not only shelter for these individuals, but also give them a chance to find transitional housing and then turn their lives around.

Expectation/Disclaimer: 

In order for the participants to gain a better understanding of the deeper level meaning behind homelessness, this trip will be as immersive as possible. Students will be living on the streets of Metro Atlanta with only the bare-necessities. That means a very limited food budget for the week, no use of electronics except for emergencies, sleeping outside (regardless of weather) and at shelters during the night, and walking upwards of five miles between each location. There will be many hours of service done during the day and certain experiences may be emotionally taxing. Participants need to physically and emotionally prepared for the immersive and intense aspects of this trip. Safety will be the first priority. The trip leaders, and the Alternative Breaks program will take all proper precautions and measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the group while also educating all participants on what to prepare for.

About the Leaders: 

Jun Cai is a fourth year undergraduate student at the Emory College, studying Environmental Science and History. Jun is a weekly service leader for Trees Atlanta, a brother of Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity, a member of Homeless Outreach Awareness Project. He is interested in the social justice topics of sustainability, environmental justice and class disparity. He can’t wait to undertake this experience of a lifetime with all of you!

Kathy Bui is a third year undergraduate in college, majoring in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology and Psychology. She is interested in social justice topics of class disparities and health rights. She is involved in Volunteer Emory, Vietnamese Student Association, and Delta Phi Epsilon. When Kathy is not studying, she is a long-distance runner, avid painter, and novice photographer.

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